Committee Approves Three-Year Authorization That Sets Realistic, Sustainable Path for NASA
(Washington, DC) – Today, the House Committee on Science and Technology approved H.R. 5781, National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2010, by a voice vote with broad bipartisan support.
“This bill makes the hard choices,” said Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). “We are in tough economic times, and we cannot do it all. While I believe it is important that NASA remain a multi-mission agency with challenging initiatives in science, aeronautics, and human space flight and exploration, I also want to ensure that NASA’s missions are matched to available resources. As a result, some of the ‘nice-to-haves’ have had to be deferred, and worthy activities have been funded at lower levels than some of us would like. Nevertheless, I think the legislation before us sets a clear, sustainable, and executable path for NASA, especially in the area of human space flight.”
“We stand at a crossroad for America’s space program,” said co-sponsor and Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). “We will create our own path with changes we make today and I know that what will emerge will produce an executable and sustainable program that will get us exploring the heavens again soon. The clock is ticking, and it is important that Congress complete its work on the NASA reauthorization so that the nation’s space program can once again have a clear direction.”
The bill authorizes NASA’s Science and Aeronautics programs above the president’s proposed levels and, in line with the president’s request, reinvigorates the agency’s commitment to developing innovative and transformational technologies. The bill funds NASA’s education programs at the president’s requested level and seeks to enhance the contribution of NASA’s existing programs to STEM goals.
The authorization extends the International Space Station program to at least 2020 and adds funding for ISS research and for a ground- and space-based life and physical sciences microgravity research program. As amended, it provides contingent authorization for an additional space shuttle mission beyond the current manifest; in addition, it adds funds to aid the Shuttle workforce and affected communities with the post-Shuttle transition.
The bill restructures NASA’s exploration program. It directs NASA to develop a crew transportation system that will both minimize the post-Shuttle human space flight “gap” and directly support the expeditious development of a heavy lift launch vehicle and capsule to enable challenging crewed missions beyond low Earth orbit.
“The Constellation program that we know is unexecutable with the funds that have been—and are likely to be—appropriated,” said Gordon. “We have created a balanced, sustainable exploration program that will allow NASA to live within its means. The new program builds on the investment and advancements already made in the Constellation program and will provide an exciting and productive program that will be paced by available funding.”
The bill, as introduced, provides more than $4.9 billion over five years in funding for commercial crew- and commercial cargo-related initiatives, including $4.1 billion for the Commercial Resupply Services contracts. It also includes $500 million in Loans and Loan Guarantees and $250 million in commercial crew transportation-related activities.
“We are providing a reasonable commitment to commercial crew- and cargo-related activities, in light of the state of the industry and the funds we have available,” said Gordon. “The loans and loan guarantees in particular will help NASA leverage a limited budget. We want to support the advancement of a new industry; however, we cannot be dependent on yet-to-be-developed commercial crew systems for U.S. access to the ISS and low Earth orbit, lest we make the would-be commercial providers ‘too big to fail,’ before we have proof that they can succeed.”
The Committee adopted 23 amendments.
“The bipartisan nature of this bill sends an important message to Congress as a whole, as well as to the Administration, that NASA is a national resource worthy of our support,” said Gordon. “I look forward to working with my House and Senate colleagues, especially Senator Nelson, to send a sustainable, executable plan to the president’s desk.”
For more information, please visit the Committee’s website.